I got a play of mine back today along with a rejection letter from a theatre in Florida with a better than average history of producing new plays. I haven't been sending many plays out lately, but I have done so often over the past decade and a half, and thus I've developed a pretty thick skin about rejected manuscripts; but what was interesting about the letter was that while the first paragraph was pretty much the standard boilerplate of polite regrets, the second contained a hint of the disturbing, though completely predictable, trend in modern theatre away from doing any new works at all.

Dear Paul:

On behalf of everyone at Florida Stage, I would like to thank you for your submission of The Good Ship Manhattan. We read it through carefully and with interest. While we are aware of its many merits, I regret to say that, after giving it careful consideration, we find it does not suit our needs at this time.

Please be advised that our Literary Manager {_____} will be leaving Florida Stage in late July, and his position will not be filled at this time. Therefore, we are no longer accepting unsolicited works from agents or playwrights.

Etc., etc.



In other words, “We will only be doing plays by famous dead guys or those which are spoon-fed us from New York.”

Ah well... in earlier posts I indicated that I’ve ditched playwrighting for a while anyway to try my hand at a TV pilot, which I finished this week. The normal post partum blues aside, I’m very happy with the piece, and writing it was a much more creative challenge than I dared hope. Of course, now comes the tough part: trying to sell the bitch, or failing that, squeeze some kind of paying work out of using it as a calling card. My most recent conversation with the L. A. agent who encouraged me to start on this endeavor was pretty disappointing. It turns out that instead of having a bunch of insider contacts and bright ideas on how to pitch this to them, he’s going through a mid-life crisis and sees this project as some sort of redemption for his otherwise banal career hawking actors to casting directors. Now, I’m all for redemption, but that’s why I write plays, not TV. TV I do for the MONEY!!! It’s not a total wash yet. We’ll probably end up having some sort of semi-public reading of it in Hollywood some time in late August. And everyone on the team will try and get as many higher tier actors, producers, writers, agents etc. as we know to either participate or come watch, and maybe, just maybe simply stirring the hornets nest will accomplish something, though the pessimist playwright in me strongly doubts it.

A large part of me would like to be able to say that I’ve almost cleaned my plate of writing projects, for if that were true then I could take some time to see how life would be like without it. But such is not my fate, at least for a while. Annex Theatre, here in Seattle, will be producing my play, An American Book of the Dead - The Game Show, next spring and I just heard from the director that they’ll be workshopping it this August. When they first told me they were interested in the piece, I decided to be determined not to hold my breath. And sure enough there was delay after delay in the offing. But now it seems to be for sure, and when I met with the director in my kitchen the other night, he had some good ideas on where he thought the play could use some tuning up. I wasn’t sure I wanted to do any rewriting for this second production, but after talking to him I’m almost positive I will. For example, he grilled me on why The Bardo of American Poets, Patriot and Expatriate needed to be there, and I found I couldn’t defend it aggressively enough. It might just be time to murder at least one of my darlings. Always tough at first, but also almost always, ultimately, refreshingly liberating.